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European Stamps & Card Making Trends

Reported by Suzy Haghighi Add Image

(Editor’s note: This is a LONG article, chock full of fabulous information… go grab yourself a cuppa, and sit a spell…)

While there may be as many different kinds of stamps and card making styles in Europe as there are in North America, I am going to generalize for the purposes of this article and discuss the stamps and styles of five European stamping companies I am addicted to: Magnolia Stamps from Sweden, Whiff of Joy from Switzerland, Stampavie from France, Toodles & Binks from the UK, and Elzybells Stamps in the UK. This article will discuss these European companies, as well as the European style of paper crafting that is often used with these kinds of stamps. I will also briefly talk about the rise in the popularity of European stamps and the European style of card making in North America as it relates to these companies.

Magnolia Stamps
Magnolia Stamps from Sweden are the oldest and most popular of the five companies. Designed by Pauline Bertilsson, their cute, homespun style has been highly influential, and served as a model to many fledgling European stamp manufacturers. They were my first foray into European stamps. I love to color, paper piece and add dimension to my cards, and had been looking for stamps that had a large surface area and the right designs for doing that.

Magnolia Stamps has two different lines within the company that revolve around different characters. The most popular line in the company is the Tilda and Edwin Collection, accompanied by Baby Alvin and Tingla. Often (but not always) with angel wings, they are little children with chubby cheeks that can be seen in different poses wearing clothing from different time periods, events, seasons and holidays. The style is a unique fusion between homespun folk and modern trendy.

They were not easy to find in North America until recently, but are now experiencing a sudden rise in popularity thanks to bloggers, popular paper crafting forums, and retailers.

North American distributor Magnolia-licious owner Diana Crick says, “Magnolia pays great attention to creating landscape stamps that co-ordinate beautifully with the images. When creating a card these accessory stamps take your card making to the next level.” For example, there is a side view stamp of Tilda and chair or step stamps you can buy to seat her and create scenes without having to do a lot of masking (crafters usually cut Tilda out to fit on these prop stamps). The larger designs of these stamps allow for lots of open, solid space. This makes for fun paper piecing. It is the rubber stamp equivalent of playing paper dolls.

Magnolia stamps are lilac colored rubber that come either unmounted or on EZMount (a foam that cushions the stamp and clings to your acrylic block without the use or adhesive). The average size of a Tilda stamp is 3.5 x 1.75 inches. The backgrounds can get quite large – an Oak Tree background stamp is 4.25 x 5.5 inches. Crafters often stamp the image then cut half the tree out to fit within a card, and mask a Tilda in front of the tree.

Whiff of Joy

Owner Katharina Frei loved card-making so much she left her job in the medical field to start her own stamp company, Whiff of Joy, with her husband in July 2008. Using established professional artists, American Elisabeth Bell, and Canadian Alison Acton as illustrators, the unmounted red rubber stamps are highly detailed and the largest of the group (for example, Willow with Lantern is 2 3/4 wide by 4.25 high).

The quality is amazing; of all the stamp companies, Whiff of Joy has the thickest and most deeply etched rubber. The stamps focus around four lines – Guardian Angels with wings Melinda and Matthew, Kids Charlotte and Charlie, and Willow & Oakley, who are a bit older. New characters Lizzie, a teenager and Herb, a snowman, were introduced November 8th for the holidays.

One of the company’s most popular stamps, Willow With Hot Chocolate, can be seen in the card below. Like Magnolia stamps, Whiff of Joy has accessory and background stamps such as books for the reading angel, a pillow heart for the angel holding a heart, and grounded flower backgrounds. Whiff of Joy stamps are the most detailed of the group and perfect for coloring and shading. Alison Acton’s Charlotte and Charlie are kids that are cartoon like, whereas Elisabeth Bell’s designs are whimsical, sweet and romantic.


Toodles & Binks

The newest company of the bunch, Toodles & Binks, opened in October of this year, and has released three stamps so far, all unmounted red rubber. Each character will eventually have a set of accessory and friend stamps that revolve around it. Owner Kay Bolton and her husband manufacture the unmounted red rubber stamps from their farm outside London.

Asked why the European stamp style has gained such popularity in North America recently, Kay replied “I think it might have something to do with the real homespun, folk art feel that emerged from Norway/Sweden over the last 18 months or so; it spread to the UK, and now also recently reached the North American crafters. There is definitely a resurgence in colouring stamped images here in Europe, and this new style has certainly fulfilled that need.”

Toodles & Binks is the “cute” line of parent company Stamp Galaxy, and was created after the owner rediscovered her love of coloring thanks to North American blogs and their recent focus on Copic Markers. Once again, the Internet had its part in the transatlantic exchange of ideas. Toodles & Binks illustrator Genevieve Godbout is a French Canadian who lives in London and works for Disney. You can definitely see a cartoon influence in her stamps. While Celeste the Fairy and Joel the Deer are all about fantasy, the newest stamp, Simone, is a stylish yet cute working woman.

Elzybells UK

Elizabeth is both illustrator and owner of the UK based company Elzybells. Like many other rubber stamp companies, Elzybells was created from her passion for her hobby. Her line is based upon “Girl” and “Boy”, and also various animals and flowers. The Girl reminds me of a female Charlie Brown and is once again, very cute.


Elzybells stamps do not have the fine detailing of some of the other stamps, which makes them easier to color and less intimidating than the more detailed stamps. The stamps have large, open spaces making them very easy to paper piece without a lot of intricate cutting. Elzybells stamps are available in both wood mounted and unmounted red rubber, and Elizabeth also sells a few clear stamp sets. A much smaller stamp version of Elzybells is distributed in North America by A Muse Artstamps.

Stampavie

Stampavie, formerly a scrapbooking retail company, was launched in May of 2008. The company is the only one of the five to sell their images primarily on photopolymer clear acrylic stamps. The French corporation has lines by two different artists so far with a third collection by Alaskan Leeré Aldrich coming soon.

Canadian Rachelle Anne Miller’s Lily and Milo line is taken right off the pages of her children’s book illustrations. Her sweet and happy children are very stylized and detailed with tiny dots, stars, and flourishes.

Illustrator Sarah Kay’s detailed scenes of girls with rag doll dresses and bonnets, or bell bottoms and halter tops hearken back to the art and style of Holly Hobbie. The retro images are tender, sweet and above all very cute.

Commonalities:

Size: As mentioned above, the main images of these European stamps tend to be larger (an average of 3.5 X 4 inches) than their North American counterparts, which leads to different designing methods. Did the size of the stamps influence card design methods or vice versa? While I can’t answer that, I can say that the European style of card making typically involves creating larger sized cards. Inge Groot, a Netherlands based designer for Whiff of Joy, Magnolia and Elzybells Stamps says “My cards are usually 6 x 6 inches, but a lot of ladies make cards 14 x 14 cm (5.5×5.5 inches)”.


Design: When asked about the difference in styles between North American card makers and their European counterparts. Whiff of Joy owner Katharina Frei says “The American/Canadian stamp style is often simpler, but just as beautiful. The advantage to the simpler style is that people produce a lot of cards in less time, but with a great effectiveness. Europeans tend to use a lot of patterned paper, whereas Americans/Canadians often create their own backgrounds. They also tend to use sentiments as their center of cards and embellish around them. With Europeans sentiments only play a minor role when making cards. Complexly coloured images with a lot of embellishments, often overloaded cards form the European style. But I notice an assimilation on both sides.”

A larger canvas allows for more layers and embellishments. These layers are created with the use of patterned papers and embossed cardstock. As for the embellishments used, Primas, buttons, threads, and beads are used for a busy and detailed collage like card.


Layers are not for patterned paper alone: these larger stamps are often cut using a paper tole process whereby an image is stamped two or more times, cut and layered to product a 3D effect. Cutting and masking against backgrounds to create scenes is very popular.

Subject Matter: These companies all have one thing in common: the cute factor. Stamp subject matter often consists of sweet, whimsical or romanticized images of women, children at play, and chubby cheeked angels. Happy and playful, they embody happy childhood memories.

Unmounted: With the exception of Elzybells, the five companies reviewed today all sell unmounted stamps (Elzybells sells both wood mounted, unmounted and photopolymer). All sell rubber stamps except Stampavie, which only sells photopolymer (clear) stamps.

Detailed Images: It is no coincidence that many European card makers love to color their images. These larger stamps are perfect for coloring. Copic markers are quickly becoming the coloring tool of choice alongside colored pencils and Peerless Watercolours.


Pros:
  • High quality overall
  • Large, detailed stamps are fun to color and paper piece
  • Cute and unique, many with a quirky personality
  • Unmounted stamps don’t take up a lot of room

Cons:

  • Shipping and customs clearance can take a long time (although North American retailers stock some of these companies now too)
  • It can be hard to find envelopes for the larger size cards made with these stamps
  • Cost: The average European card costs more to make than than an average North American card because of the embellishments; extra postage is often required for mailing
  • Some people do not like the cutesy card style and/or the time it takes to make a European style card. These type of cards are not easy to mass produce.

Conclusion:

The stamps from these 5 companies have a wonderfully sweet style that allow me to make the most of my coloring and paper tole skills. The subject matter makes me smile and brings back happy childhood memories. The quality of the stamps is very high overall, and the fact that they are unmounted allows room for storage in my small craft room. I highly recommend them. I also like that they are unique and different, and often come with accessory stamps to create scenes.

Where to buy:

Elzybells stamps are available in the larger size I discussed in this article from Elzybells UK. A smaller version, called Elzybells NA, is available through A Muse Artstamps, who distributes them exclusively for North America. Elzybells UK stamps average about £3.25 each for unmounted rubber ($5 US) or £6.50 each for wood mounted ($10 US).

Magnolia Stamps are available directly from the manufacturer in Sweden or in North America from Magnolia-licious. Unmounted EZMount cushioned rubber stamps average in price from $9 – $15 US for the larger background stamps.

Stampavie Stamps (Rachelle Anne Miller, Sarah Kay) are available in North America from the Sweet ‘n Sassy Stamp Shop and many other North American retailers. For a full listing of retailers around the world see the Stampavie site here. They average about $9 US each for unmounted photopolymer (clear) stamps.

Toodles & Binks Stamps are currently only available from Stamp Galaxy. They are £4.50 each (about $7 US) for unmounted red rubber.

Whiff of Joy Stamps are available from the manufacturer in Switzerland or in North America from All That Scraps. For a full listing of retailers around the world please see the Whiff of Joy website. They average about $10-11 US each for unmounted red rubber.

I would love to hear your thoughts and comments concerning European stamps and this article. I will be happy to answer your questions as well.

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15 Responses to European Stamps & Card Making Trends

  1. Renee' November 14, 2008 at 9:44 am #

    Thank you so much for this article. I have seen a lot of beautiful creations through Youtube and blogs.I’m glad to know how to get my hands on some of these stamps.

  2. Eliza November 14, 2008 at 9:49 am #

    Thanks for that article and lots of useful info. I just miss some info about customer service on those companies, shipping time etc. I have some bad experience with Magnolia… But I guess it`s best to buy in America…

  3. Christi November 14, 2008 at 9:55 am #

    What an awesome article! So much information and all the creations were gorgeous!!

  4. Korin November 14, 2008 at 10:04 am #

    Awesome, awesome article!! So informative and of course the artwork is gorgeous! Great job Suzy!!!

  5. amanda November 14, 2008 at 11:45 am #

    Great article! Lots of useful information. Thank you.

  6. Sarah Moore November 14, 2008 at 12:09 pm #

    WOW! Someone needs to tell Suzy she doesn’t have to work this hard!

    Great job!

  7. Anonymous November 14, 2008 at 2:35 pm #

    Great article, Suzy. I really love the European style cards, but it is very expensive. The cards are expensive to create and send, but well worth it when you see the finished product.

  8. sharon November 14, 2008 at 3:19 pm #

    Very informative. Thanks for all the sleuthing. If I order anything from these companies I will do so with confidence.
    Sharon

  9. jerseytjej November 14, 2008 at 3:53 pm #

    Living in Sweden, I can honestly say it is cheaper to purchase stamps and images from America and send them here, than to buy local things…

  10. Etha November 15, 2008 at 8:49 am #

    What a great article, I really enjoyed reading it. I have some Elzybells stamps but stopped buying them because of the wood, great to see that they now offer unmounted!! I think their images are just perfectly cute, each one of them and they are not large really at all.
    I am slowly becoming addicted to Sarah Kay images and love the fact that they come as polymer stamps. I don’t think Sarah Kay is cute, its dreamy 🙂
    I really do like all the Magnolia images and what people do with them, but I don’t think you’ll catch me stamping a child without a mouth! That just totally disturbs me. I love the style and the accessories, but no mouths is just wrong 😉

  11. cathygalloway89 November 15, 2008 at 7:54 pm #

    Thanks for writing this article. I love several of the companies you reviewed and now have a couple more to check out. I’m glad you included the US distributors.

  12. Anki November 17, 2008 at 1:01 pm #

    So nice to read your article. Being Swedish I understand that you like the Magnolia stamps – they are very cute. Unfortunately their reputation is not the best in Sweden, since many people here do not think they have the best customer service. However – I do hope that they have improved. Another Swedish company that’s popular is the Hänglar & Stänglar. Their customer service is great. Unfortunately they are only sold in Sweden and in Norway.
    Whiff of Joy – I can only compliment Kathrina – her service is Swiss perfection!
    Also – being Swedish – I tend to look for stamps outside the Nordic countries and for inspiration in US and UK. You have been making cards so much longer than what we have and the trend is growing day by day in Sweden. Well – interesting article and wish you all a very nice evening, Anki

  13. Donnas Den November 20, 2008 at 5:00 am #

    Thank you very much for this article. I am a UK retailer and found the points of contact very useful.

  14. Bessie May 25, 2009 at 12:18 pm #

    It may be a case of ‘the grass is greener’, but I have seen very little in the way of top class card making and stamping in the UK.
    North America is streets ahead with all their stamps, inks, papers, embellishments and most of all, style. This is so creative and professional. My favourite is ‘shabby chic’ by Julia Stainton. Many designs in Britain rely on Peel-offs, card toppers and Decoupage…yikes!!! Thank goodness for all your blogs.
    Bessie Segal.x

  15. scrapcat 1 May 12, 2010 at 4:58 pm #

    I take exception to what Bessie has said, she obviously has no idea what the average crafter can do with some stamps and colouring pens/pencils.
    I enjoyed reading the article and have some of these stamps and I do use them a lot.